Shrawardine castle and settlement remains


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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Ordnance survey map of Shrawardine castle and settlement remains
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Shropshire (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SJ 40059 15406

Reasons for Designation

A shell keep castle is a masonry enclosure, extending around the top of an earlier motte or castle ringwork, and replacing the existing timber palisades; there are a few cases where the wall is built lower down the slope or even at the bottom. The enclosure is usually rounded or sub-rounded but other shapes are also known. A shell keep is relatively small, normally between 15 and 25m diameter, with few buildings, and perhaps one tower only, within its interior. Shell keeps were built over a period of about 150 years, from not long after the Norman Conquest until the mid-13th century; most were built in the 12th century. They provided strongly fortified residences for the king or leading families and occur in both urban and rural situations. Shell keep castles are widely dispersed throughout England with a marked concentration in the Welsh Marches. The distribution also extends into Wales and to a lesser extent into Scotland. They are rare nationally with only 71 recorded examples. Considerable diversity of form is exhibited with no two examples being exactly alike. Along with other castle types, they are major medieval monument types which, belonging to the highest levels of society, frequently acted as major administrative centres and formed the foci for developing settlement patterns. Castles generally provide an emotive and evocative link to the past and can provide a valuable education resource, both with respect to medieval warfare and defence, and to wider aspects of medieval society. All examples retaining significant remains of medieval date are considered to be nationally important.

Shrawardine castle shell keep castle survives well and is a good example of its class. Although much of the masonry belonging to the shell keep itself has been removed over the years, a considerable portion still remains above and below ground. The earthworks associated with the castle remain largely intact, either as surface features or buried remains. The castle is well documented in historical sources from its early years through to its final abandonment. Recent archaeological research from 1991 to 1994 has confirmed that significant and substantial remains of the original castle and its immediate environment survive beneath the modern land surface. These evaluations have only disturbed a very small part of the site and all excavations have been carefully back-filled. The castle motte remains a substantial earthwork and will retain archaeological evidence relating to its construction and its occupation. The interiors of the three baileys survive largely undisturbed and will retain archaeological evidence relating to the various domestic buildings which occupied the baileys. Evidence will also exist relating to the various industrial processes carried out within the castle (pottery manufacture for example). Environmental evidence relating to the economy of the area and the landscape in which the castle was constructed will be preserved beneath the motte and the ramparts and in the fills of the various ditches. Such complex castles, occupied and modified over a considerable length of time, provide information concerning the development and changes in castle design and use throughout the medieval period. They contribute valuable information concerning the rural settlement pattern, economy, social organisation and military technology of the period. The settlement remains to the west of the castle, which may relate to a documented period in the history of the site are regarded as a part of the monument. They will contain valuable archaeological information relating to the nature of medieval rural settlement and will cast light on the social context of the castle by enabling a comparison between the lifestyle both inside and outside its walls. The close proximity of both the parish Church of St Mary, which stands west of the castle and has a well documented association with it, and Little Shrawardine motte and bailey on the opposite side of the River Severn, also add to our appreciation of the original setting of Shrawardine castle itself.


The monument includes Shrawardine castle, a shell keep castle with the remains of a stone keep, motte, three baileys and associated settlement earthworks situated on the north bank of the River Severn nine miles west of Shrewsbury. The castle is sited in an elevated position overlooking the river to control a crossing point and, with Little Shrawardine castle 800m west (the subject of a separate scheduling), is one of two castles designed to defend both sides of the ford. The fragmentary standing remains of the shell keep are Listed Grade II. At the time of the Domesday survey Shrawardine formed part of the lands of Sheriff Rainald de Bailleul, Sheriff of Shropshire. The name Shrawardine is believed by some authorities to derive from "Shire-reeve-weoden", meaning the defensive enclosure of the sheriff. Sometime after the Conquest Shrawardine passed into the hands of the Fitzalan lordship of Oswestry and it is believed that the present castle was founded at this time by order of Henry I. The first written reference to the castle occurs in 1165 when Philip Helgot wrote acknowledging service of the castle guard to the Crown. The castle was used by Henry II during his campaigns against the Welsh in 1165-6 and royal expenditure for building works on the castle is recorded through the years 1171 to 1214. The castle was attacked and its defences destroyed in a Welsh raid led by Prince Llewellyn the Great in the following year, 1215. The king ordered the sheriff to refortify the castle in 1220, however the following year, 1221, the service owed to the Crown by the tenants of Shrawardine was discontinued and transferred to Montgomery Castle. By 1240 the castle had been returned into the hands of the Fitzalan earls of Arundel who rebuilt the castle and renamed it Castle Isabel. The Fitzalans held the castle and manor until late in the 16th century when it was sold to Sir Thomas Bromley, Lord High Chancellor of England. The castle subsequently became the principal residence of his son and remained in the hands of the Bromley family until the 18th century. During the Civil War the castle was garrisoned for the king by William Vaughan and in 1645 the castle was besieged by Parliamentarian forces. During this siege the castle garrison demolished parts of the church to the west of the castle and most of the village in the vicinity of the castle to improve the castle defences. However after only five days of siege the castle was surrendered to the Parliamentarians. The Parliamentarian force held the castle for a short time only before retreating to Shrewsbury. During this time they demolished part of the castle, transporting the materials to Shrewsbury to repair and strengthen the town defences. On leaving they fired the timber parts of the castle so ensuring that it would no longer function as a fortification. Today the castle includes the remains of a motte and a shell keep at the centre of an extensive earthwork complex. The keep is represented by the fragmentary remains of two partly buried undercroft arches and some fragments of walling. The walling is built of squared sandstone blocks and is battered (inwardly sloping) in the lower courses. The substantial nature of the fragments that survive suggest that, when intact, the keep was a powerful fortification. The castle mound, or motte, is irregular in plan having been disturbed by later stone robbing. However it remains a substantial mound with overall dimensions of 50m east to west by 30m north to south standing up to 5m high on its west side, 3.1m high elsewhere. Each face of the mound has been cut into, forming a series of concave quarry hollows. At the south west and south east corners are roughly semicircular mounds which may represent the sites of corner towers. On its north east side the mound falls to a flat platform which extends from the motte to the bailey ditch; this may indicate the site of a large building. To the immediate north and east of the motte are the remains of the inner bailey enclosure. It is roughly rectangular in plan with maximum dimensions of 90m north east to south west by 50m north west to south east. The bailey is bounded along its northern side by a scarp 0.6m high with an outer ditch 0.5m deep. Around the east side it is bounded by a well defined scarp up to 2m high which curves around towards the west at its southern end before fading out. The inner bailey may have always been open to the small outer bailey which lies along this south side. Although the surviving visible earthworks of this bailey or enclosure are fragmentary, its plan can be traced as a roughly rectangular enclosure with dimensions of approximately 50m north west to south east by 40m transversely. The east side of the bailey remains visible as a low scarp up to 0.6m high running for approximately 50m on a north to south alignment, with evidence of an outer ditch visible as a slight hollow 0.2m deep. An exploratory trench was cut across this feature as part of an archaeological evaluation carried out by Shropshire Leisure Services Archaeological Unit (SLSAU) early in 1994. The excavation revealed that the defences comprised a bank surmounted by a timber palisade separated from an outer ditch by a berm 1.8m wide. The ditch itself was found to survive as a buried feature 3.6m wide and 1.9m deep, with a steep v-shaped profile. The southern end of the bailey is no longer visible as a surface feature, however the west side remains visible as a well defined scarp up to 1.2m high which curves northwards towards the motte. During the 1994 excavations a two-chambered pottery kiln of 12th to 13th century date was identified immediately outside the bailey. It is the first kiln of its type to be discovered in Shropshire and is included within the scheduling. On high ground to the north east of the motte are the remains of a second and larger outer bailey with internal dimensions of approximately 80m north to south by 64m east to west. It is separated from the motte and inner bailey by a well defined ditch up to 6m wide and 0.6m deep with fragments of a flanking counter-scarp bank up to 0.4m high along its northern edge. The bailey is defended around its west side by a broad spread rampart averaging 10m wide and up to 1.2m high on its outer face, 0.5m on its inner. The scarp of an outer ditch 0.5m deep runs for some 6m to the west of the rampart and is now surmounted by a hedge. This western rampart fades out at its northern end adjacent to a large pond which lies at the north west corner of the bailey enclosure. Around the east side the bailey defences can be traced as a broad spread rampart up to 12m wide and 0.6m high. This is interrupted approximately 40m from its southern terminal by an original entrance gap 4m wide. This eastern rampart ends on the steepening slope above the pond occupying the north east corner of the site. On the lower ground to the west of the castle, between the motte and the modern lane, are the earthwork remains of a hollow way and a series of well defined house platforms. These are a part of the medieval settlement which existed close to the castle. Their desertion may have resulted from economic difficulties which occurred due to crop failure following flooding during the early 14th century. Alternatively, the earthworks may represent houses which were razed to clear a field of fire during the Civil War siege of the castle in 1645. Metalled surfaces, structures and fences which fall within the protected area are excluded from the scheduling although the ground beneath all these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

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Books and journals
Hannaford, H, Archaeological Evaluation of Shrawardine Farm, (1991), 3-6
Hannaford, H, Archaeological Evaluation of Shrawardine Farm, (1991)
Hannaford, H R, Phillpotts, C, Archaeological Evaluation of Shrawardine Farm, (1994), 6-7
Hannaford, H R, Phillpotts, C, Archaeological Evaluation of Shrawardine Farm, (1994), 11
Hannaford, H R, Phillpotts, C, Archaeological Evaluation of Shrawardine Farm, (1994), 11-12
Jackson, M, Castles of Shropshire, (1988), 52-53
Auden, J E, 'TSAS' in Notes on the Church, Castle and Parish of Shrawardine, , Vol. vii, (1895), 120
SMR record no 52, SMR Record no 52,


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

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